Omaha, Nebraska 3 Nov. 2012
As per yesterday's post, we pulled in to Omaha at 5:45 a.m. from Tulsa. I shut the curtains tight to ensure not one sliver of light crept through and went to bed hoping for a solid 5 or 6 hours. I opened my eyes at 10 o'clock feeling wide awake and ready to go. I've never been sure how you can sometimes get a full night's sleep and wake up exhausted and other times get by on a couple hours and feel great. Doesn't matter. I got dressed and tossed myself out on the streets of downtown Omaha to see what I could.
I found myself on Howard Street near the hotel. It appears to have been a warehouse and industrial district at one time but now converted to restaurants, market places, antique dealers, fashion and coffee shops and it runs for several blocks. I found a place to pop in and get my nails done, had a coffee and spent some time in a couple of used record stores. I also came upon a small plaza surrounded by red umbrellas and a bronze statue wearing a chef's hat ... a toque. A large sign informed me it was the world headquarters of ConAgra and on closer inspection the tall bronze statue was none other than Chef Boyardee. For those not familiar with the name, he was a real person with a family owned Italian restaurant who came up with the idea of canning spaghetti in The Depression. It was pretty awful stuff but caught on straight away and still sells to this day. Boyardee, whose name was anglicised from it's original Italian spelling was the spokesman for his concoction and appeared in early magazine adverts and TV commercials, a well known figure here in America. Every kid in the States came up eating it. It seems that ConAgra, a not-so-friendly corporate name, owns the Boyardee brand and the chef himself who died many years ago. Legend has it, if you touch the chef's toque it will bring good luck in the kitchen. I left that task to others but still got a smile seeing the good chef standing there in the plaza looking just as I remember him.
After a couple hours I came back to the hotel, packed and met with a fellow who used to take guitar lessons with my old mentor and pal Al Casey in Phoenix. Doug Miers is a long time resident of both Des Moines, Iowa and Phoenix, currently living in the former. He'd purchased a guitar amplifier from Al in the early 90s that Al had used on hundreds of record dates. When I began going around to sessions with Al in the 60s I remember him always using the amp. Doug made contact with me over a year ago explaining he had the amplifier and wanted to give it to me as a gift. As Des Moines is only an hour away from Omaha, we made arrangements to meet for lunch. It was a real tug seeing that amplifier again after all these years, still in beautiful shape, and like Chef Boyardee looking exactly as I remembered it. More important, it was great spending a couple of hours getting to know Doug and exchanging stories about our mutual pal Al Casey.
Tonight's show was held in the Centurylink Center in downtown Omaha. A fabulous audience, couldn't have been better. MK and Co. have hit a very comfortable cruising altitude on this tour when it comes to the shows. Not cruising as in lazy, but effortlessly performing at peak ability. Mark played a couple of tunes with Bob again tonight then it was back on the highway for another long drive to Madison, Wisconsin.
I don't recall ever being in Omaha before, we definitely have never played it with Mark. What little I saw of it this morning I liked very much.... good city, good people. How can you not like a town that's home to America's coolest billionaire, Warren Buffett? While on the subject of do-re-mi, I'll leave you with five Fortune 500 companies that headquarter in Omaha:
1. Berkshire Hathaway
3. Union Pacific
4. Peter Kiewit & Sons
5. Mutual of Omaha